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German parlamentary group DIE LINKE demands new and fair trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal

14.06.07 (von ivk) Right before the oral hearings held by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia on May 17, all 53 Members of Parliament representing the parlamentary group DIE LINKE (The Left Party) signed a petition demanding a new and fair trial for death row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal

April 24th, 2007

Honorable Anthony J. Scirica, Chief Judge
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
21400 U.S. Courthouse
601 Market Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106-1790

Re: Mumia Abu-Jamal v. Martin Horn, Pennsylvania Director of Corrections
Case Nos. 01-9014, 02-9001 (death penalty)

Dear Chief Judge Scirica,

We, the undersigned Members of the German Bundestag, are writing to you about the case of Mr. Mumia Abu-Jamal, a journalist and author from Philadelphia. For years we have been following very attentively his efforts to have the death sentence imposed on him on July 3, 1982, overturned, and to be granted a new and fair trial.

The decision is also of great interest for us in Germany, as the Basic Law (constitution) of the Federal Republic of Germany expressly prohibits the death penalty. In recent decades, all of the countries of the European Union and the Council of Europe have abolished or introduced a moratorium on the death penalty. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that extraditions which could result in people suffering the death penalty are equivalent to inhuman and degrading treatment and thus constitute a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In December 2005, your Court took the decision to accept for judicial review three of the grounds submitted by Mr. Abu-Jamal's defense, each of which is of immense constitutional significance.

The most important question in the legal review soon to be carried out by your court is whether the prosecution's systematic rejection of African-American potential jurors undermined the fairness of the trial as a whole. This appears to have been the standard approach of the lead prosecutor at the trial, Joseph McGill, in all trials before the courts of Philadelphia. We are aware that the U.S. Supreme Court stated several years ago that such an approach does not comply with the constitutional requirement of fairness in criminal trials. The appeal against the death sentence imposed on Mr. Abu-Jamal and a new trial is therefore primarily based on this important precedent.

The second grounds for appeal involve the way in which the jury's guilty verdict was reached. In his summation, the prosecutor, reassured the jury with doubts about the defendant's guilt, emphasizing that Mr. Abu-Jamal would be able to submit 'appeal after appeal' following the verdict and prove his innocence at a later date before other courts. The jury thus felt relieved of their responsibility, and imposed the death sentence unanimously. From a legal perspective, this turned on its head the principle that the defendant be given the benefit of the doubt (in dubio pro reo) and the requirement that the prosecution provide unmistakable proof of the defendant's guilt. The jurors were thus prejudiced against the possibility of choosing, in view of their doubts, not to reach a verdict, which would have led to the selection of a new jury and a new trial.

The third point accepted for review by the court is the conduct of Albert Sabo, the judge who presided over the first hearing on a retrial in 1995. The fact that the federal court also intends to review the conduct of this judge implies that the decision-making process in this case might indeed have been influenced by the biased and racist conduct of the presiding judge.

We know that the review of the points listed here gives this Court the opportunity to correct the constitutional errors made by others. At the same time, your decision of December 2005 certifying review of certain issues has opened up the prospect of a new, fair trial. Mr. Abu
Jamal could thus, together with his lead attorney, Mr. Robert R. Bryan from San Francisco, set out unhindered the truth as to what occurred at the time of the homicide on December 9, 1981, for which he was sentenced to death. This would be the first time that the full facts would be heard by a jury.

Trusting in your judicial independence, we therefore ask that, against the background of the concerns set out above, you approach this case with all due care.

Respectfully yours,

Aydin, Hüseyin, MP * Bartsch, Dietmar, Dr., MP * Binder, Karin, MP * Bisky, Lothar, Prof. Dr., MP * Bluhm, Heidrun, MP * Bulling-Schröter, Eva, MP * Bunge, Martina, Dr., MP * Claus, Roland, MP * Dagdalen, Sevim, MP * Dehm, Diether, Dr., MP * Dreibus, Werner, MP * Enkelmann, Dagmar, Dr., MP * Ernst, Klaus, MP * Gehrcke, Wolfgang, MP * Golze, Diana, MP * Gysi, Gregor, Dr., MP * Hänsel, Heike, MP * Heilmann, Lutz, MP * Hill, Hans-Kurt, MP * Hirsch, Cornelia, MP * Höger, Inge, MP * Höll, Barbara, Dr., MP * Jelpke, Ulla, MP * Jochimsen, Lukrezia, Dr., MP * Keskin, Hakki, Prof. Dr., MP * Kipping, Katja, MP * Knoche, Monika, MP * Korte, Jan, MP * Kunert, Katrin, MP * Lafontaine, Oskar, MP * Leutert, Michael, MP * Lötzer, Ulla, MP * Lötzsch, Gesine, Dr., MP * Maurer, Ulrich, MP * Menzner, Dorothée, MP * Möller, Kornelia, MP * Naumann, Kersten, MP * Nescovic, Wolfgang, MP * Paech, Norman, Prof. Dr., MP * Pau, Petra, MP * Ramelow, Bodo, MP * Reinke, Elke, MP * Schäfer, Paul, MP * Schneider, Volker, MP * Schui, Herbert, Prof. Dr., MP * Seifert, Ilja, Dr., MP * Sitte, Petra, Dr., MP * Spieth, Frank, MP * Tackmann, Kirsten, Dr., MP * Troost, Axel, Dr., MP * Ulrich, Alexander, MP * Wunderlich, Jörn, MP * Zimmermann, Sabine, MP
[53 signatures]

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